The Weekly Daf

For the week ending 24 January 2015 / 4 Shevat 5775

Yevamot 111 - 117

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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Hold Back that Child!

The synagogue was locked on Shabbat and the keys had been lost somewhere in the street. This was the problem facing Rabbi Yitzchak bar Bisna whose responsibility it was to open the synagogue for the worshippers. Even if he could find the keys he would be unable to carry them on Shabbat through the public thoroughfare. When he presented his dilemma to Rabbi Pedos he was advised to lead a group of children on a stroll to the area where the keys were lost, in the hope that they would find the keys and bring them to him at the synagogue.

The halachic conclusion drawn by some authorities from this advice is that if a child is seen eating forbidden food or committing another transgression there is no obligation to prevent him from doing so. Only the father is obligated to reprove him and prevent him from committing the sin, because he has the responsibility of chinuch -- training his minor children in preparation for their responsibilities when they come of age.

Tosefot (Mesechta Shabbat 121a) contends that our gemara's ruling about not preventing a child from committing a sin is limited to a child who has not yet reached the age of chinuch. Once he reaches that stage, however, there is an obligation on every Jew, not only the father, to prevent him for committing any sin.

The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 243:1) rules according to the first opinion that chinuch is the responsibility of the father alone (and the mother as well according to some authorities), and not of others. Rema, however, cites the view of Tosefot that all are obligated. The compromise suggested by the Chayei Adam and quoted by the Mishna Berura (ibid.) is to take the more stringent approach in regard to violations which are of Torah origin but to rely on the more lenient view in regard to bans of a rabbinic nature.

  • Yevamot 114

The Feeling is Mutual

"Like the reflection one sees when he looks into the water, so is the heart of man to man." (Mishlei 27:19) This observation of the wisest of men, King Solomon, has various applications. In our gemara we find two of them.

The Sages who dispute Rabbi Yehuda apply it to human relations. Although the testimony of an individual witness about the death of a husband is sufficient to allow his widow to marry another, certain female relatives are disqualified. This is because they are suspect of perhaps hating her enough to want to embarrass her by testifying falsely about the death, thus ruining her marriage when her mate returns after she has married another. Among these is a mother-in-law, because we suspect her of perhaps resenting the fact that her daughter-in-law may end up consuming the resources which she brought into the marriage and which will revert to her household through inheritance.

While this reason explains why the mother-in-law may possibly harbor antagonism to her son's wife, it does not explain why the reverse is also true -- that a daughter-in-law cannot testify regarding her husband's mother. This is so, say these Sages, because feelings are reciprocal. If one smiles into the water he will see his reflection smile, and if he frowns, the frown is returned. If one feels love for another, it is reciprocated. The same is true of hatred.

Rabbi Yehuda's interpretation of Solomon's model of reciprocity is that it applies to the study of Torah. Rashi offers two different explanations of how this applies. One is that your success in mastering Torah knowledge will reflect how much heart and effort you invest in its study. A second explanation deals with the relationship of teacher and student. If the teacher shows a pleasant face to his student, displaying a genuine interest in his development, the student will become wise; otherwise he will not gain from his teacher.

Tosefot, in Mesechta Yevamot (113b), applies this concept of reciprocal feelings to the situation in which legitimate hatred of a wanton sinner arouses a reciprocal hatred, which may ricochet into the improper hating of a Jew "because he hates me," rather than based on the original catalyst.

  • Yevamot 117a

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